In just two years, 6DT Consulting grew from 3 to 88 clients. The firm, spearheaded by president and founder, Christiane Constantineau, and co-founder and COO, Jean-François Thibault, is built around cloud technology.
Here’s how Christiane and her team of four use the latest tools to offer an innovative virtual CFO service and bookkeeping firm, helping companies in Canada and overseas growth.
ABOUT CHRISTIANE CONSTANTINEAU
“I’ve worked for companies, started companies and closed some too. I stopped counting at 1000 business plans and financials.”
Christiane has years of experience helping startups manage their cash-flow and restructure financial management.
After starting her career in international development in Ottawa, then joining a Montreal-based investment capital firm, Christiane is a seasoned professional in financing and restructuring startups.
“In 2015 while I was working in Saudi Arabia, one of my clients had a huge server crash that lost them almost all of their accounting data. After that, we went completely cloud-based, using everything we could find. When we first started, we had 3 clients. Now, we have 88 clients all using the cloud.”
‘When we started the business, we were seeking a document management system (DMS) with a scanning tool. The only Canadian-based firm was offering a non-bilingual app solution. We started using Receipt Bank because it provided a fully bilingual solution for both our clients and our staff. The French in the app is perfect, very easy and simple to understand. In Quebec, we must provide our staff products in French first. My team is bilingual, so they can switch to French or English when they want.”
OFFERING VIRTUAL CFO SERVICES
Christiane uses her decades of experience as a financial director to offer virtual CFO services. She provides this to around 10% of her clients, which often means talking about things they wouldn’t say to their accountant or their banker. “Our clients also want to be challenged on decision-making, have a second opinion and get feedback from being in business.”
Her results speak for themselves.
“60-70% of my startup clients succeeded, whereas a majority of startups usually fail in the first few years.”
“Clients trust us because of our expertise in corporate finance. For example, one of 6DT client in Quebec, that is selling industrial equipment, needed financing to back-up the purchase of a big piece of equipment (around $100 000 US dollars). They sought us for advice and we helped them by integrating FundThrough into their QuickBooks online ledger. FundThrough is a Toronto-based company, that help finance invoices. Now, this client can sale the equipment and their revenue has [subsequently] exploded. Recently, another client also needed budgets & forecasts to get a loan, and we helped them get it done in less than 72 hours by using Budgeto, an award-winning budget tool,” explains Christiane.
THE CONTINUING RELEVANCE OF BOOKKEEPING
6DT Consulting offers bookkeeping alongside virtual CFO services. Christiane is a strong believer in the continuing importance of high-quality bookkeeping in the era of automation.
“3-4 years ago, we had a new client who tried to leverage some finances. They were not up-to-date on the books (using Excel sheets) and they were doing their bookkeeping on a cash basis. They were later audited by the taxman and fined around $20,000 Canadian dollars. Now, they see the value of good bookkeeping! And their company is now worth more, with no skeletons in the closet. We still need people with bookkeeping knowledge. It helps us better serve our clients when it comes to taxes, consultancy, and decision-making.”
TAKING CONTROL OF CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS
All of 6DT Consulting’s clients use a software package, consisting of a cloud-based general ledger (QuickBooks Online), a CRM (Centrix.One) and Receipt Bank. “We offer a free CRM to our clients to make sure our clients can focus on their sales, providing them with their tools in one package so they don’t have to pay for them individually.”
Receipt Bank is mandatory to use, and Christiane will turn away clients who refuse to use it. “If they don’t want to use Receipt Bank, we don’t take the client.”
“I provide an hour of training on Receipt Bank, then QuickBooks Online and finally the CRM. Usually, they don’t need much training on Receipt Bank. We designed infographic templates and downloadable flyers, plus send documentation and information like tricks or app of the day through Centrix.One.”
Christiane also creates demonstration videos using Loom to send to her clients when new features are introduced.
“We always tell our clients to put everything - from invoices to bank statements - into Receipt Bank. It’s a one-stop shop. We can access all the information, reducing time on decision-making and making it much easier to manage. There is no documentation going back and forth through emails. Plus, everything is archived for informational purposes.”
With Receipt Bank, Christiane’s clients no longer need to bring in shoeboxes of paperwork.
“One of my bookkeepers used to move from her office to her clients’ to get all the paperwork. If anything was missing, she couldn’t close the month. Now [with Receipt Bank], it’s very easy to send documentation through the mobile app or forwarding the email with the attachment. It’s very easy, particularly with the new Paypal option and Invoice Fetch.”
A VIRTUAL OFFICE
“We are a team of four, and three of us are all mothers working from home. This was something I wanted to do when I worked in Ottawa in 1995, when working from home was not as feasible.”
“My business is all about helping women work from home. If they were working at a [more traditional] consultancy or advisory service with kids at home, the noise would be a distraction. [Here], they communicate with clients online. It doesn’t matter if they have three kids in the house! It’s a way for them to stay knowledgeable in the market and in the cloud.”
“Next month, we are onboarding someone who wants to travel through the United States. These are the kind of employees we want to have - travelers and parents who need a more flexible way of working.”
While working remotely, Christiane employs tools to help manage her team’s work patterns and priorities. One such tool is the Client and Firm View, features available in Receipt Bank Optimize.
“We use Client View to clearly prioritize tasks. We also use the in-app messaging within Receipt Bank to communicate with clients, and if there’s a problem [for instance, with an invoice] to flag within Receipt Bank.”
“I also created separate dashboards to ensure they meet targets in an Excel spreadsheet - it’s the only time we use it! I wanted something simple and very easy to use. When they finish a client, every week, we go into their clients’ books. Everyone takes care of their own portfolio, separated and balanced them according to the complexity weight.”
ATTRACTING NEW CLIENTS WITH THE CLOUD
Christiane attracts clients in three ways: first, QuickBooks Find An Accountant; second, word-of-mouth referral; and third, Receipt Bank.
“If my team or clients go to a restaurant and use their cellphone to take a photo of a restaurant bill, they will often be asked about it. Then they call me! This is a very easy way to get clients onboard. They’ve never used an optical character recognition (OCR) [tool] before, it’s something new. Once we’ve introduced it (and it really is mandatory), they really love it.”
THE RESULTS OF USING RECEIPT BANK
“I was able to save the hour I would spend on publishing 30 transactions - from importing data and reviewing it to adding to QuickBooks. Before, it would take 2 minutes per transaction.”
Christiane also saves time by applying the feature, Auto-Publish, to automatically publish items.
“For clients who import goods, Receipt Bank extracts the right amount from their commercial invoices such as DHL. I’ve never seen that in an OCR [tool]. Every time I see it, it’s amazing. For specialised invoices, it really does capture the right data. I also use ‘Auto-Publish’ for things like restaurant or gas bills, aiming to fully automate to 30% of our data.”
FROM 3 TO 300
Christiane’s goal for the firm is to have 300 monthly recurring clients by May 2020, and identifies a huge area for growth in startups in Canada.
“Right now in Quebec, everyone is moving to the cloud. This is a reason why I think it will grow fast. Traditionally, we are 2-3 years behind the uptake curve.”
“There’s a big opportunity, but we want to be very selective. We have a typeform (interactive form-creation software) to identify the best clients for us.”
Christiane is also looking to launch a client hub, enabling clients to ask questions through a 6DT Consulting chatbot to scale her business.
And with the time saved and efficiency of Receipt Bank, Christiane is also looking to travel while still working from home. “I want to spend more time travelling, working with my clients and staff at the same time. I would also like to continue to grow at a pace I can absorb.”